In the continuing controversy over the tweeted accusations from President Donald Trump against his predecessor, President Barack Obama, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Monday said that when Trump posted his four tweets early that Saturday morning, he did not mean that President Obama himself had wiretapped his phones or had ordered others to “tapp” the phones at Trump Tower in New York. No, what President Trump meant by writing “Obama” was the Obama administration, and by “wire tapping” he meant “surveillance,” and he meant it in an over-arcing, broadly defined way, or so said Spicer.
On the same day the House Intelligence Committee had given the Department of Justice (DOJ) as a deadline for supplying evidence of President Trump’s claims (all of which were made without naming sources or providing any form of substantiation) regarding the alleged wiretapping, Spicer walked back the president’s words through redefinition. Acts such as those President Trump ascribed to President Obama in his Twitter postings could be found illegal and prompt any number of official investigations — like that of the House committee — to get to the bottom of the matter. As was reported by CNN, Spicer, while still leaving room for various surveillance techniques to be employed, redefined Trump’s use of the world wiretap.
“I think there’s no question that the Obama administration, that there were actions about surveillance and other activities that occurred in the 2016 election. The President used the word wiretaps in quotes to mean, broadly, surveillance and other activities.”
As CNN pointed out, “wiretapping” itself is a “narrowly defined surveillance activity.” According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it is the surveillance activity of tapping “a telephone or telegram wire in order to get information.”
When Spicer talked with reporters, it was still unclear whether or not, even with Spicer supplying a redefinition of Trump’s words, the House Intelligence Committee will pursue the matter further. But later in the day, it was reported that the (D would request additional time to gather evidence in the case. According to Reuters, a department spokeswoman said the DOJ needed more time “to review the request in compliance with the governing legal authorities and to determine what if any responsive documents may exist.”
The White House itself has refused to offer any evidence substantiating President Trump’s allegations. Spicer said just hours after the allegations were made that the White House and the president would not speak regarding the case until Congress investigated, that President Trump’s tweet “spoke for itself.”
President Trump wrote in his first tweet on March 4 that he had “just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory.” In a second posting, he asked if it was “legal for a sitting President to be ‘wire tapping’ a race for president prior to an election?”
A third post stated that “a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October.” It was followed by a fourth tweet that asked “low has President Obama gone to tap (sic) my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate.”
Those tweets became the center of a quickly escalating controversy, not just because a sitting president had accused another president of a possible illegal activity (which, in the words of Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, would be “worse than Watergate,” because a president cannot legally order a wiretapping) but, if Trump Tower had been wiretapped, it would have occurred under the legal umbrella of a FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Court warrant. Such a granted warrant would mean that then presidential candidate Trump or someone in his campaign was suspected of dealing with and/or are under the control of a foreign government.
President Obama’s spokesman, Kevin Lewis, said in a statement (in part): “Neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false.”
The FBI and the CIA have since stated that there is no truth to President Trump’s allegations, even though it was reported, according to FactCheck.org, that a FISA warrant was issued in October for a computer server in Trump Tower due to concerns that the Trump campaign might have been receiving money from one or two Russian banks. The report has as yet to be confirmed.
[Featured Image by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]